{thanksfully: Thorned Gifts}

Finnieston 191

One fine, sunny morning in college, I got lost.

I got lost on the campus of my college, that fine, sunny morning, and as I was one of the vast hordes of Freshers running around that year, maybe it didn’t seem that unusual to anyone. That it was months into the school year – nearly May – should have been a telling point, but no one noticed.

I was climbing one of those long flights of stairs and I, mid-step, was lost.

And I couldn’t breathe. And my hands were slick, and the sky wheeled in sickening loops around me. And I wanted to get away from it – from beneath it – but it was so huge suddenly, and there was nowhere to escape it. Every surface looked pitiless and hard, every building foreign, and I just knew that awful was three millimeters from happening to me. People walked by, I guess, but I was gripping onto a light post with all of my strength, and trying to stop the world from spinning out of control. And trying to breathe.

It was a profound experience, which is laminated in memory. The flight of stairs from the gym to the building below the library – some technology hub – to the three flights of stairs near the flowering cherry trees was all I could see. Going up those stairs would have put me in line of sight to the asphalt-paved road that led to the parking lot next to the English building, and my dorm. Five hundred feet, and I would have been able to see my way to safety. But, I couldn’t move that far. I slid down to the ground gripping the light post, and hyperventilated.

Eventually, I managed to get up. I was going to ask someone if they knew where I was, when suddenly, at the entrance to the library, the landscape snapped into familiarity. I was able to inflate my compressed lungs, and stop panting, straighten up, and walk stiffly – my hair and back soaked from perspiration – to my dorm.

I remember I was so ashamed. So, so mortified. And felt really, really stupid.

Sooo, I never told anyone.

I mean, would you?

Charing Cross 344

It happened again. And again. And it happened at the American Library Association Annual Convention in D.C. in 2010 where I was being honored for MARE’S WAR, and I had to walk out of a room full of authors getting ready to go on and do presentations for thus Speed Dating thing. I was soaked with sweat, and trying to breathe, and thinking, “Everyone knows. Everyone here is A Cool Author who Does Stuff and Knows Stuff, and then there’s you. Everyone knows, and you are such a fraud.”

Sooo, when I read of Robison Wells, Cybil-nominated author of VARIANT, losing his day-job because of a panic attack, and being just unable to do what was required of him, I teared up immediately over his struggles. Been there, done that, have the t-shirt. It’s thin and tattered and usually rank with sweat.

Sometimes, I feel so flawed. I think, “Gah! Isn’t it enough that I’m introverted and shy? Did I have to be flat-out mental (our Ms. G‘s word), too? I don’t always have an answer for that. I’ll be honest: I don’t come off as Sunny Suzy after freaking out. It’s something I can’t control, and I really prefer to, honestly, control everything. But, I do know this: I have seen the world from the point of view of someone broken. When I am at the top of my game, and you are at the bottom of yours, I’ll know how it feels. I will understand, and be kind. I will consider the courage of Rob Wells, and when I am wrecked, I will remember, “Yes, but –” and, once the clouds of doom part, go on.

It’s a tiny gift, but one I will hold onto, and not let anyone pry from my death-gripping, sweaty hands.

For the thorn, and for the rose. For the grace of courage, and the gift of empathy, I am truly thankful.

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4 Replies to “{thanksfully: Thorned Gifts}”

  1. That just reached in and hit my core, Tanita. I am thankful for you writing here. This whole series of posts this month has had me thinking in ways I need to be thinking right now.

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